Steady as she goes

And so the rituals of the financial results season begin. As The Lawyer went to press the day before the Royal Wedding, most firms we contacted were still hoping their partners would be making one last push on billing.

As we reported a couple of weeks ago (11 April), the abnormal number of holidays in April has caused huge headaches for firms that rely on the latter part of the year to get their bills in for work in progress purposes.

With all caveats duly lodged, it looks as if the 2010-11 financial year has been steady, give or take a few quid here and there. Despite the fact that many firms had a decent first half, the bounce-back has not materialised. On the basis of our preliminary research, it looks as if the magic circle will broadly maintain revenue levels – although the gap that had opened up between Freshfields and Linklaters on the one side and Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance on the other may be slightly less pronounced.

For the bigger City firms it’s been patchier: ­Denton Wilde Sapte – now SNR Denton – looks as if it’s had a shocker, but there are strong indications of substantial profit recovery at a resurgent ­Eversheds and a much-relieved SJ Berwin.

Niche practices continue to be entirely unscathed by the economic climate – London property and private client firm Forsters, which has a March year-end, has announced a 12 per cent revenue increase to £25m and a 20 per cent rise in average profit per equity partner (PEP) to £360,000.

Firms may have had to fight for every piece of work this year, but going by The Lawyer Awards shortlist (see page 16), which covers the same ­period, the quality of that work continues to be extraordinarily high, with mid-market firms ­featuring prominently.

What was also noticeable among the hundreds of entries was how much more internationalised the work has become among firms outside the top 10, to an extent that would not have seemed ­possible five years ago.

As always, it was a tough task for the judges to arrive at the shortlist; deciding the winners is going to be even harder. Congratulations to all those who have made the list.;